A new image of Uranus from the James Webb telescope looks like a portal to another dimension
December 19, 2023

A new image of Uranus from the James Webb telescope looks like a portal to another dimension

The James Webb Space Telescope is about to celebrate the second anniversary of its launch into space, and the new image of Uranus that it made, that is, its NIRCam sensors captured the rings of this icy planet. Due to the infrared filters, the telescope captured wavelengths that cannot be seen with the naked eye, and the planet in the image therefore resembles a glowing blue marble flowing into a large black ocean, which to some looks like a portal to another dimension.

The space agencies NASA, ESA and CSA, that is, the American, European and Canadian agencies jointly publish the images that the telescope makes, and compared to the generic images of Uranus made by Voyager 3 in the eighties of the last century, Webb provides much more vivid images. By capturing light in the infrared spectrum, the telescope's sensors reveal a “strange and dynamic world of ice filled with exciting atmospheric features,” describes the team operating this spacecraft.

In addition to the standard rings that surround the icy planet, this time the telescope also managed to capture the “elusive Zeta ring”, Uranus' faint ring that is considered the “innermost” ring that surrounds it. In addition, the image also shows the northern polar cloud cap, a white patch near the center.

As for Uranus' moons, the image shows 14 of the existing 27. Among the orbiting bodies, the image includes Oberon, Titania, Umbriel, Juliet, Perdita, Rosalind, Puck, Belinda, Desdemona, Cressida, Ariel, Miranda, Bianca and Portia .

In the published photo, James Webb used four NIRCam filters, which reveal details in the near-infrared spectrum. These include F140M (blue), F210M (cyan), F300M (yellow) and F460M (orange). An image shared by NASA earlier this year shows Uranus in just two filters (blue and orange), resulting in a more “primitive” view of the planet.

Speaking of the planet itself, Uranus contains a lot of ice, and it rotates on its lateral axis at an angle of about 98 degrees, plunging the opposite side of the planet into extreme cold and darkness for a quarter of the Uranian year. Otherwise, one of his years lasts as long as 84 Earth years, which means that the dark side of the planet goes through windy winter and darkness in a period that lasts (our) 21 years.

Scientists believe that the images from the Webb telescope will help them better understand Uranus, especially its Zeta ring, and the universe in general. They also believe that its images are instrumental in learning about the nearly two thousand documented exoplanets in other solar systems that share characteristics with our ringed icy representative.